Tom Wheatley takes part in the 2014 ShortList Tri Challenge at Dorney Lake
Five months ago we unveiled the news that the 2014 ShortList Tri Challenge would take place at Dorney Lake in Windsor. At the same time I vowed to myself that, in contrast to last year, I'd put some major effort into training and make vast leaps in my triathlon performance. Although there may have been some slight hiccups across the summer, largely in the form of weddings, music festivals and an impressive new Indian restaurant at the end of the road, I did actually make some progress.
This year we worked with Human Race, one of the country's largest mass participation events companies (the team behind the Wiggle Dragon Ride and the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon), to plan and promote the sprint triathlon. The event was held in support of charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) which aims to prevent male suicide in the UK, with the ShortList team raising sponsorship for the cause.
The one big change that we added this year however was the inclusion of a prize for the winning triathlete. Two pretty darn good prizes to be precise. As well as a top of the range wetsuit courtesy of blueseventy, the fastest ShortList entrant would also win a holiday in Yorkshire from Natural Retreats. Things were likely to get quite competitive.
In contrast to the weather over the previous fortnight we turned up at Dorney Lake to find the sun desperately trying to push through the clouds. There's was little more than a slight breeze and the lake itself was almost still. Perfect conditions for the event. Even someone like me who dreads the swimming section was actually looking forward to getting started.
The ShortList triathletes turned up to find not only a breakfast laid out but Daley Thompson sat ready to welcome everyone before the race. After some some much needed advice and motivation I realised that it was almost time to start and ran off to set up my transition area.
With only a few minutes to spare we stepped into the water, the first wave of sprint triathletes on the day. A man next to me pointed at a buoy in the distance, I nodded and said “that doesn't look too far actually.” He shook is head and gestured again into the distance. “No, the next one.” I'm not sure if it was an optical illusion but I don't remember a sprint distance looking quite so far before.
As we floated in the start area Daley wandered over to start the wave. After a few words of warning the horn sounded and we were off. I watched as the faster swimmers shot off into the distance leaving slower ones (mainly me) taking up the rear. To be honest it was actually quite enjoyable though. Swimming in Dorney Lake was noticeably nicer than swimming in the Victoria docks and I actually began to enjoy it. For the first time in a race I actually felt comfortable doing front crawl. Even the onslaught of the wave behind me catching up couldn't dampen my spirits.
As I exited the lake I ran through transition and picked up my bike feeling fairly pleased with myself at the speed. It wasn't until I was about to pass the mounting area that I realised my chip had fallen off when I removed my wetsuit. At the same time as luck would have it I saw Daley stood at the side cheering me on. Like a clueless Norman Wisdom I clumsily wandered back, grabbed my chip and returned to the mounting area. “I didn't see a thing.” said Daley as I leapt onto my bike.
If ever there was an ideal cycle leg then this was it. An almost completely flat course with very little wind meant for some very enjoyable cycling. I remember during last years Tri Challenge the headwind meant it was like climbing a hill, this time I had no such excuse for a bad time.
Finally we came to the run section. The one bit I always look forward to. The 2.5km course meant that there were noticeably more people in the enclosed space. A nice treat for a runner who's used to busy races. As people ducked and weaved around each other people started to really pick up the pace before the finish line. The exertion visible on many of the faces.
I won't go into depth about my own time. Suffice as to say it was better than my last attempt so I'll keep it at that. The real triathlete of the day was Albert Mennen who came in to win the ShortList Tri Challenge with a time of 1:14:16. Daley presented Albert with his prizes. According to Albert “It was really good. The swim is always my worst leg so I have been working quite hard on that in training. I found the run quite tough but I am glad to finish first. It was a great race.”